tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS February 20, 2016 1:30am-2:01am PST
gwen: two huge stories this week, at the supreme court and on the campaign trail, demonstrate why politics really matters. tonight on "washington week. president obama the constitution is pretty clear about what's supposed to happen now. gwen: true. but what is happening now is the granddaddy of all political fights in the wake of the sudden death of supreme court justice antonin scalia. >> i think that it should wait until the next election. >> the president was re-elected for a four-year term, not a three-year term. >> look, scalia dies and one second after he's dead they're already starting fighting about politics. gwen: but grief quickly gave way to political positioning ascandidate prepared for contests in south carolina and nevada. >> i intend to make 2016 a
referendum on the u.s. supreme court. >> this is pure naked hostility and opposition to the president of the united states. gwen: but first, clinton has to get past bernie sanders and ted cruz has to get past donald trump. >> i will tell you i have never met a person that lies more than ted cruz. >> everything in my political gut tells me we have the momentum here in this state. we're going to win. gwen: and all that was before donald trump got into a fight with the pope. covering this week -- peter baker, chief white house correspondent for the "new york times. joan biskupic, legal editor for reuters. john dickerson, cbs political director and moderator of face the nation. and manu raju, senior political correspondent for cnn.
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today, respects paid by the president and the public, his sudden death immediately threw three branches of government into an uproar. add to that the crazy uncertainty surrounding any number of unsettled issues, legal and political, from immigration and affirmative action to abortion and birth control. joan, exactly how much is hanging in the balance? >> so much. you really have to go very far ack in america to find someone w40es whose death will so change our lives. this really could bring about a major shift in constitutional law. about re that, think politics. it's going to influence the election and if barack obama manages to get a third appointment to the supreme court, think of the legacy he will have. two of them are young, 52 and 56. the new appointee will be of that new generation
also. so you have that. and in terms of the constitutional law, so many of the cases you referred to, gwen, are decided by five votes and if you bring in a liberal to succeed him, all those things are going to clafmente and for decades we have had a conservative majority. for the first time in frankly the lifetime of many of us we will have a liberal majority if this goes through. gwen: tell us about the culture of the court. how much of a shock is it when someone leaves the court in this manner? especially someone with such an outsized personality. >> it's a huge shock. chief justice rehnquist was the lft to die in office but he had been sick for some time before. we were sort of expecting it. but it wasn't in the middle of a term. in the middle of a term with a ppt -- president of another party than who apainted ash --
appointed hi. i think all the many people who follow this, the culture of it, they're still rattled. lit igants are uncertain about what will happen next. and the conservative move mencht. justice scalia was such a part of that more ofment and with him removed so much will change. gwen: i was taken aback by how quickly the response happened. literally within hours we saw misch mcconnell respond. >> it was really remarkable. one reason why is the debate that night was happening and mcconnell needed to get out ahead of the republican candidates. he did not want to make it look like the republicans were actually wrun -- running the show. he wanted to show that he was setting the agenda. and soon we saw essentially the
whole party get in line behind him. over this past week we have seen republicans start to wlay in on that. one of the -- weigh in on that. one of the challenges for the republicans is they've been on recess so they have yet to come and actually reformulate their strategy. but the sense i get is the republicans will not move forward confirmation hearings. gwen: not even hearings? >> not even hearings. not give him or her a vote on the senate floor. why? because they believe if they start down that process they'll lose momentum. the nom inrhee would have a chance to shine. and it probably would be someone who is pretty well qualified so they want to try to stop it in the tracks right away. gwen: john, you were on the stage with those republican candidates. did you expect them to get in
line so quickly with what mitch mcconnell said? >> well, first, we were kind of wondering and then suddenly the statements from the candidates were coming in already leaping over and talking about the president shouldn't announce it. we felt like well, they've already gotten in line within maybe an hour, half an hour, the statements were already out. so i was a little surprised and it was difficult to find a balance between the proper reverence and going right into the political but the system just seemed to absolutely gallop beyond us and they were ready to go. gwen: let's talk about the galloping system, john. you talked about the issues that were hanging fire even before his passing. what would you say as you begin to order in your mind the key cases to watch, the ones most significantly affected by this
loss? >> just for the medium term, len -- qwenn, we already had one of the most socially charged sessions in years. the public sector union vote will probably change now without his fifth vote and i think it would have been against unions in america. an abortion case is going to be heard on march 2, now by only eight justices. it increases the chances that the texas law that's quite restrictive on abortion rights will not be upheld. but who knows? we have affirmative action up there, voting rights, and the president's immigration policy is going to be heard in political -- april. i think the policy has a much greater chance than it ever volunteer -- would have with justice scalia. gwen: so 4-4 means what? >> it means it stands. if there was a 4-4 ruling
against the president, if there was a lower court ruling that favored him, that would be in place and no national precedent is set. gwen: and any cases that had already been decided, because they meet right after these arguments, which justice scalia had a vote, his vote doesn't count? >> well, no. because an opinion is not ready to be handed down, a case is not ready to be decided until they have dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's. the way they take the vote is circulating draferts, like a conversation, writing, and effectively justice scalia voted, you're right, gwen, he voted an all the cases heard up through the end of january but he was also going to decide essentially the racingale and nothing counts any more from behind the scenes. gwen: manu, we know what the
republican strategy is so far. do we know anything about the democratic strategy? >> yeah, they're really just going to keep the drumbeat going, screaming at the top of their lungs that this nominee is not being treated fairly. as soon as congress comes back we're going to hear floor speech after floor speech calling for the president's nominee to be heard. they've really struggled to come up with a compelling message but this is one that could really rile up their voters in key states. and not just that but the senate election too. democrats could get back into the majority and they think this is key to hurt some of those vulnerable republicans in places like new hampshire, ohio, pennsylvania, wisconsin, that could actually flip the senate map. so watch for this drum beat to
really inintensify. and once there is a nominee, not a theoreticetical discussion, this debate could shift. gwen: ok. we'll see. it's been a furious week on the campaign trail as well. as republicans have been threatening to sue one another, democrats have sparred over who is abandoning president obama, and each side has played furiously to conservative evangelicals for the g.o.p., blacks and latinos for the democrats. secretary clinton: my campaign is really about breaking every barrier because i believe absolutely that america can't live up to its potential unless every single person hays chance o live up to theirs. senator sanders: count me in as somebody who, if elected president, will help lead this country in the fight against institutional racism. gwen: on the republican side, donald trump has been fighting with the pope, who after a week traveling in mexico told reporters that anyone who would
build a wall on the border "is not a christian. trump's first response was tough. mr. trump: for a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. gwen: trump later softened his criticism of the pope. interesting for a man who has never hesitated to question others' professed faith? so what was that all about? >> well, it was, its interesting to figure out, is this going to hurt donald trump in south carolina? there ant a lot of catholics in sking -- south carolina. those who are in south carolina are probably not big fans of 9 pope's. he doesn't poll well among republicans. also in you had stuck with donald trump thank you all the controversies and this is what made you jumpt away? that person doesn't exist. trump, we've seen a few times with limb, he's kind of backed
off. gwen: right. when he's reading his statement he's very tough. what he's later asked about it, he softens. >> we've seen that effort to try to moderate a little bit because he knows he has a core of support but to build that core he needs to deal with some issues. gwen: so let's start with south carolina. the vote in 24 hours. >> it looks like it might be a three-man race with trump and cruz and then marco rubio taking that third slot. although if rubio comes in second that would be a huge blow to ted cruz. donald trump had been ahead in all the recent polls. there is a harris-marist poll that has it much tighter. if ted cruz comes in second, that's not great for him. it's a state where more than 60% of the voters in 2008
identifiered themselves as evangelical. that sets up the what they call the s.e.c. primaries in the south -- gwen: s.e.c. being a sports metaphor. you know how i feel about sports metaphors! >> thank you, gwen. we don't want to confuse viewers. well done! then marco rubio after that disappointing performance in new hampshire, coming back to perhaps help in south carolina with all the endorsements from the establishment in south carolina trying finish off his two challengers in the sort of mainstream republican lane, bush and kasich, if he can do that in south carolina, that would be big for him. gwen: and he got that big nikki haley endorsement. >> jeb bush supporters are very nervous heading into saturday. i talked to lindsay graham and
he said if we're not neck and new england with rubio or beating rubio, there is a -- a problem. he needs to be at least third or close to third. it's a real problem. >> and a big moment for the bush dynasty. brought out barbara bush, george w. bush returning to politics for the first time since he left the white house. which tells you where jeb bush is because he wanted him behind stage for so long and now he sees him as an advantage, and fighting with trump over warranted or as not. he said that bush lied to get america into the war with iraq and somehow is culpable for 9/11. but to say that out loud, that is code pink tind -- kind of
territory and to survive that and be booed in the two most recent debates and do well still and to make a month of fire from ted cruz, probably the best one to make the case against trump verages if he survives all that, it will give us another reading about his durability. gwen: momentum has been good, it's fair to say, to trump. >> now he's talking about how he's the candidate who knows the supreme court best. he was a law clerk to late chief justice rehnquist -- >> and he's running an ad in which he says the next president will be able to name the next supreme court justice and you don't want to leave it in the hands this guy, then running that footage where donald trump says he's very pro-choice. yes, it points out two things, the trump weaknesses on issues
that conservative voters care about but it's also easy for cruz to talk about it, his comfort zone. gwen: save some time for the democrats. they have a big caucus in nevada tomorrow and their south carolina primary is not until next week but hillary clinton got a big endersment today from jim clyburn. i don't thin -- think anyone is surprised but timing is everything. and nevada seems to have tightened you. >> one thing about that quickly before we jump to nevada, i was in south carolina six, eight months ago and the clinton campaign was working through the organization, the rural churches in south carolina, the african-american community as if she were running -- running against barack obama, with a kind of ferocity that explains why she's up by 30 points in the polls in south carolina. now, nevada the problem is she was expected to do well there. cnn had a poll where it's
basically even, 48-47. what we're all watching for there is, is bernie sanders able to reach into the 35 or so percent minority vote in member of -- nevada and pick up some votes there? because the rap against him is that his voters are basically too liberal and too light. if he can show inroads into a nonlight constituents, -- constituency, that may help him. gwen: and with your anchor scott pelly, when he asked her if she's ever lied, the answer was well, i don't think so. >> if someone asks you if you are going to lie to the american people, the answer is always, number one in the candidate handbook, is no. we are all conditioned to politicians saying they're not going to lie to us and thin -- then ligue to us, we're used to even ut whether you can't answer that -- gwen: the question was have you
ever lied, which is more commomp -- complicated. and ever since new hampshire -- >> this is supposed to be the state where they started to show some separation from bernie sanders and you heard the clinton campaign say there is not actually all as diverse in the state as we're making it out to be. 80% white and that angered harry reid, he said they're looking at my hold -- old high school yearbook. the clinton campaign ask concerned that they may actually lose that state. gwen: it will be a test of is as the latino scrote strong as everybody says it is in nevada. gwen: we circle back now for a big picture on the supreme court battle we saw break out this week. compared to past presidents, how unusual a position does this president find himself in? you're our historian, peter. >> both sides or every side can find an example to point to and say this proves my point.
it is pretty unusual to have a justice die in office. as joan already said, last time, with rehnquist, we knew he was not doing well, so that wasn't a shock. the last before that was 1954, robert jackson and the last time a justice died in office in a presidential year, 1892. so we don't have a lot of recent experience on that. his successor though was confirmed seven days after being nominated. gwen: that's not going to happen! >> but we can find plenty of justices in a -- an election year. kennedy in 19 8, he was the third after bob bork and ginsberg. >> and we should say bob bork changed everything the >> that's right. a pretty good start for the fight we're about to have. interest groups, politics, money, all wrapped up into this
really titanic battle with the consequences as joan has already outlined. you can understand why the republicans are saying what they are saying but there laz been no history of a president saying i'm not going to make my nomination for a year. never happened about. not going to happen this time. gwen: the partisan nature of a fight like this, is that really a modern idea? >> well, as we said, with the seven-day confirmation, it used to be the rule that nominees were confirmed in relatively quick order but there have been big partisan fights. i think of john tiler, president in the 1840's and he had no party, bisque basic -- party, basically ands the whi dwmplet s hated -- whigs hated him. he sent up nominees nine times and only one got confirmed. this is going to be one of
those moments. at a different level, a higher level. with the presidential election at full throat this is going to be something bigger than we have seen before. gwen: but we know and you know, joan, scalia was confirmed 98-0. things have changed a lot just since then. >> well, he was confirmed that way partly because he slid in with the draft behind republicanquist when he was elevated from justice to chief justice. so they let that one go. >> and teddy kennedy with his con w tingent in massachusetts, they went for it. i was thinking of 1968 when l.b.j. tried to make abe fortas justice and that went into a protracted fight and 9ig power name the next chief justice fell to richard nixon and then it took three tries. harry blackman used to refer to himself as "old number three."
>> exactly. the point is that the southern conservatives blocked the liberal democrats from putting in their chief justice but in the end they got the one they wanted but lost as having harry blackman, the associate justice who ended up writing roe versus wade. >> and every time one party does something, the other party just one-ups them. gwen: and it should be remembered this president joining the filibuster. >> yes. nothing he said this week about that he regrets. gwen: well, thank you, everybody. t's been an incredibly influential week. stay up to date with all of the results from the next round of primaries and caucuses with me and judy on "the pbs" newshour"
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. welcome to kqed "newsroom." on our show, california's secretary of state alex padilla talks about why californians aren't voting. what do changes on the supreme court bench mean for some key cases that will affect california? and, we get a preview of upcoming arts events around the bay area. but first, a tech giant takes on the federal government in a fight over access to cell phone data. on tuesday, a judge in southern california ordered apple to help the fbi unlock an iphone belonging to sayeed farook, 1 of the 2 terrorists who killed 14